The Election Commission’s decision to shunt out senior officers ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, can spark a clash with the Trinamool Congress going by the way Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee went all guns blazing against the panel after it cracked similar whips during the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state.
On both occasions in 2014 and 2016, Banerjee had made the EC’s action a poll issue, describing it as an “insult” to the state and to the officers from Bengal.
She had attacked the EC at meeting after meeting, even assailing it for “acting at the behest” of the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
There was high drama in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, as Banerjee, then three years into her chief ministerial tenure, refused to carry out the transfer orders. Instead, she got her Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra to write to the EC seeking reconsideration of the names of new appointees. But the EC had stood firm, giving the state government a deadline to comply with the orders.
It was only then at the insistence of the Chief Secretary that Banerjee relented, but declared that she would reinstate the removed officers in their previous posts soon after the polls. She kept her word.
Interestingly, one of the IPS officers shifted out in 2014 was then Jhargram police Superintendent Bharati Ghosh, who later fell out with Banerjee and is now a BJP candidate from Ghatal constituency.
In 2016 again, the EC had slapped transfer orders on a number of IAS and IPS officers, including Banerjee’s blue eyed boy — then city police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar. Banerjee had again come down heavily on the panel, but unlike in 2014, did not delay implementation of the order.
But in an action replay of 2014, she had reinstated all the removed officers in their original posts within 48 hours of the poll results. Some of the officers, who had worked with great zeal during the elections after the EC appointed them to crucial posts, were given less significant postings. A few of them were even sent to compulsory waiting.